We’re taking a break from Hercules for a very special guest post from author Molly Ringle. She wrote her own version of the Persephone myth in a book called Persephone’s Orchard (wordpress won’t let me underline for some reason so lets see if italics works). I’ll include her version of the myth first, then a bit about the book. Tune in Thursday for a review of Persephone’s Orchard
Molly Ringle’s Version of Persephone:
There is no single “original” myth for Persephone and Hades, nor for most of the other myths. We have a variety of surviving sources, often with varying and conflicting details. What I’ll tell here draws from various versions, though predominantly from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, one of the earlier sources we know about.
One day Hades, the lonesome and grim god of the Underworld, caught sight of Persephone, a goddess of spring and daughter of the gods Demeter and Zeus, and fell promptly in love with her. Deciding he must have her, he dispensed with the usual introductions, and abducted her from the field where she was picking flowers. He caused the earth to split open, and dragged her down into its depths in his chariot pulled by black horses. The chasm then closed again, and Persephone officially became a missing person in the world above.
Her mother Demeter went wild with grief at the disappearance of her daughter, and while racing around looking for her, dropped her duties of making the Earth fertile and healthy. The weather went cold; the land went barren; people began to starve. This was, apparently, the first instance of winter. And no one liked it. So once Zeus figured out where Persephone had disappeared to, he insisted upon her return, for otherwise Demeter would refuse to save the Earth, and humanity would freeze and starve to death.
Persephone was happy to see the messenger Hermes come to the Underworld to summon her back, but it turned out her return to the surface would only be temporary. She had eaten a pomegranate seed from the land of the dead (the Homeric Hymn says Hades slipped it straight into her mouth, sneakily), and was therefore obliged to return to the Underworld for part of every year. She honors this obligation, and this is why winter, too, returns to Earth each year.
Queen of the Underworld
It’s a horrible thing, a woman being kidnapped and trapped into a marriage in the land of the dead. We can all agree on that. What has always interested me, though, is how it doesn’t resemble the average kidnapping. Hades doesn’t tie Persephone up and throw her in a closet and abuse her. Quite the contrary. Instead, he gives her new powers. He makes her queen of the realm. He tells her she can punish anyone who doesn’t properly worship her, in any way she sees fit. And he asks her, please, to think of him kindly, and to consider that he’s not such a bad guy as husbands go.
It all still sounds a bit psychotic from our modern point of view, but nonetheless, in his possibly twisted way, he loves her, and honestly wants her to love him. That’s the point that has stuck with me all these years, and made me (like hundreds of other writers) come up with a version of the story that gives their relationship a fair chance at happiness.
My changes to the myth
My story, Persephone’s Orchard, uses somewhat less magic than the old myths, in which the gods can do virtually anything they wish by a wave of the hand. I love the myths, but I find it easier to plot stories where magic is limited and can’t solve everything, so I tempered the magic to a few key abilities and places. The Underworld is certainly a place of magic, where even the plants growing there (for example, pomegranate trees) exhibit properties that their living-world counterparts do not. But my immortals are nearly regular humans in most ways, other than exhibiting unusual strength and longevity. As with vampires, you can kill them if you try really hard, so they do have to be on the lookout for anti-immortal vigilantes. (But, unlike most vampires, the gods in my story are warm to the touch. And, no, they don’t sparkle. Unless they’re wearing lots of those beautiful Underworld gemstones.)
But perhaps the most important change I made, as hinted at already, was to remove the majority of the non-consensual portions of the myth of Persephone and Hades. Instead I have a Hades less prone to kidnapping, and a Persephone who’s actively curious about that dark and forbidden place called the Underworld, and who chooses to visit there, against her mother’s wishes. And that which is forbidden is always so much more tempting.
About her Book:
The Greek gods never actually existed. Did they? Sophie Darrow finds she was wrong about that assumption when she’s pulled into the spirit realm, complete with an Underworld, on her first day at college. Adrian, the mysterious young man who brought her there, simply wants her to taste a pomegranate. Soon, though she returns to her regular life, her mind begins exploding with dreams and memories of ancient times; of a love between two Greeks named Persephone and Hades. But lethal danger has always surrounded the immortals, and now that she’s tainted with the Underworld’s magic, that danger is drawing closer to Sophie.
* * *
Molly Ringle has been writing fiction for over twenty years. With her intense devotion to silly humor, she was especially proud to win the grand prize in the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with one (intentionally) terrible sentence. Molly grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Seattle with her husband and children. Her studies include a bachelor of arts in anthropology and a master of arts in linguistics. She was a Tri-Delta in college, in an old sorority house that was supposedly haunted, which inspired some of the central ideas for The Ghost Downstairs. She also loves folklore and mythology, and is working on new novels about the Greek myths. Persephone’s Orchard is the first in the series. When not writing, she can often be found experimenting with fragrances, chocolate, and gardening.